People know tuna fish to be a nutritious option that provides healthy fats, antioxidants and micronutrients, but a recent tuna recall raises some major concerns about the safety of fresh and frozen fish products.
Eating contaminated tuna can lead to signs of food poisoning from fish, causing allergy symptoms like swollen mouth, hives and nausea.
Since September 2019, two separate tuna recalls have been announced, warning consumers in several states of scombroid fish poisoning.
Because potentially contaminated products were sold at major markets and fish suppliers throughout the country, people are left wondering what tuna products have been recalled and how to detect the signs of fish poisoning.
2019 Tuna Recall: What’s Been Recalled?
On Oct. 10, 2019, Mical Seafood Inc. voluntarily initiated a tuna recall on a number of frozen fish products. The recall includes:
- wild-caught yellowfin tuna loins
- tuna poke
- tuna steaks
- tuna ground meat
- tuna saku
All of the recalled tuna products are from Vietnam and were sold to wholesalers from Mical Seafood, a supplier based in Florida. The affected tuna products were sold to consumers in 23 states, including:
- North Carolina
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
According to the supplier’s recall notice, all affected packages have a production date between April 1, 2019, and May 31, 2019. These dates are stamped on the master cases during production.
The recalled tuna products were sold under the Mical brand and as individual retailers’ brands and directly to restaurants.
Findings on Scombroid Poisoning
The tuna recall of 2019 stems from potentially elevated levels of histamine in the frozen tuna products, which can cause an allergic reaction known as “scombroid fish poisoning.”
This is the second tuna recall this year, with the FDA advising consumers not to eat yellowfin tuna steaks from Kroger retail stores in multiple states in September. The FDA has been working with the fish distributor and Krogers to remove all contaminated products from market shelves.
Reports indicate that scombroid poisoning is caused by eating contaminated fish that haven’t been properly stored. The toxic agent in fish poisoning is histidine, which is normally found in dark fish meat, which breaks down to histamine — and can be especially problematic for those with histamine intolerance.
This dangerous conversion takes place when fish products are stored in temperatures warmer than 39 degrees Fahrenheit, leading to bacterial overgrowth and the increase of histamine levels.
In recent months, several people who ate recalled fish products developed scombroid poisoning, which causes allergy-like symptoms. Anyone who has purchased recalled products is advised not to eat them and return them to the provider for a full refund.
Symptoms of scombroid poisoning can appear within just a few minutes to several hours after eating a contaminated food.
The FDA reports that the most common signs of scombroid fish poisoning include:
- facial and mouth swelling
- burning sensation in the mouth
- itchy skin
- abdominal pain or cramping
In severe cases, patients can experience blurred vision, respiratory distress, chest tightness and cardiac effects. Although this is rare, the people most at risk are those with predisposing medical conditions, like asthma and heart disease.
People taking certain medications, including isoniazid (antibiotics) or monoamine oxidase inhibitors (anti-depressants), may have worse reactions because of the histaminase blockade in the gastrointestinal tract.
How to Treat
The symptoms of fish poisoning usually resolve within 12–48 hours without any medical care. That said, some people may experience severe symptoms that require medical attention.
The most common form of treatment for fish poisoning is antihistamines, such as Benadryl. In severe cases, steroids or adrenalin may be given.
Activated charcoal is given to patients who develop symptoms within one hour of consuming contaminated fish. One of the most common activated charcoal uses is toxin removal in food poisoning.
It binds to toxins after ingestion, preventing their absorption in the body and allowing for quicker elimination.
People who develop symptoms of fish poisoning should seek medical advice or attention. They should also be sure to stay hydrated and get plenty of rest until the symptoms improve.
How to Find Healthy Tuna
Fish with high levels of histamine from bacterial overgrowth do not have a distinct odor or appearance, which makes detection very difficult. Some reports suggest that after cooking contaminated fish, the skin may appear honeycombed and the fish may have a peppery taste.
Because it can be nearly impossible to detect contaminated fish before consuming it, it’s important to purchase tuna from a trustworthy and reputable source.
It also needs to be stored or refrigerated properly to prevent bacterial overgrowth.
- In September and October 2019, tuna fish was recalled from two suppliers because of elevated histamine levels. Eating these foods can lead to fish food poisoning, causing allergy-like symptoms.
- The foods included in the tuna September recall are yellowfin tuna steaks sold at Krogers in several states. The tuna October recall includes frozen yellowfin tuna, tuna steaks, tuna poke, ground tuna and tuna saku sold in multiple stores.
- The most common signs of scombroid fish poisoning include facial swelling, burning mouth, rash or hives, itchy skin, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In severe cases, patients may experience respiratory distress and heart issues.